Whitsundays seagrass seed harvest looking for volunteers to protect the future of marine ecosystems

28 September 2022

CQUniversity staff and PhD students from the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) are seeking volunteers to hit the beach in the Whitsundays in a bid to improve the resilience of the region's seagrass populations and in turn' the marine life that depends on them for survival.

CMERC Director Associate Professor Emma Jackson said: "The Whitsunday Seagrass Restoration Project' which began late last year' is working with the community to trial the production' dispersal and successful enhancement of seagrass to support increased resilience of local seagrass meadows."

The seagrass restoration project is part of the Reef Islands Initiative' a Great Barrier Reef Foundation program supported by funding from Lendlease' the Australian Government's Reef Trust' the Queensland Government and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.

"The project is supported by CMERC' which is working with communities along our coast to develop practical solutions to the challenges facing our environment'" Assoc Prof Jackson said.

"Seagrass at some locations recovers slowly after it has been damaged' which impacts on its role as fish habitat' food for dugong and turtle' and in carbon capture and storage. By collecting the flowers and growing seeds' we can re-seed meadows to help them recover faster."

This October CMERC are aiming to collect over 100'000 flowers (only a small proportion of what is available) and are looking for volunteers to join in with the collections at Cannonvale Beach on the 7 and 8 of October.

Volunteers will learn about this incredible habitat' how to identify species of seagrass and recognise the flowers' and also see some of the interesting and unusual animals that call it home.

PhD students Anna Hegarty' Manuja Lekammudiyanse and Liz Andrews are studying methods to improve seagrass restoration as part of the project.

"This project is building the research base as well as local capacity to enhance the recovery effort after seagrass is damaged primarily by storms' floods and cyclones'" Emma Jackson said.

"Collecting flowers and harvesting the seeds allows us to stock the seagrass nursery. Over the next two years' this nursery will provide us with material to undertake a seagrass restoration demonstration at the site."

The Whitsunday Seagrass Restoration Project flower collections will be held on the 7 and 8 of October from 2pm each day. People can register through Facebook (@CQUniCMERC) or email cmerc-admin@cqu.edu.au